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Yochabel's Wisdom: Lessons in Healing

cwa badgeWritten by
Casey Hersch, LCSW
June 12, 2019

The Yochabel's Wisdom Series received an award from the Cat Writer's Association for excellence. 

This article is the beginning of an 8 part series (see below) originally published on the Conscious Cat website. The series documents my journey with Yochabel, my senior cat companion. As we secure a bond together, we learn about each other, and I adapt my integrative approaches to suit her individual aging needs. As she succumbs to bladder cancer, we explore diet, integrative medical care, hospice at home, acupuncture, chiropractic, and mind-body approaches. Ultimately, we face living and dying amid the torment of grief and loss, still finding how to love again. 

While it is really difficult to lose a cat companion, most of us would still endure the pain of loss in exchange for the memories, love, and infinite gifts we have been given from our friends.

How do you like to remember your cat companions?

There are many ways to honor and remember our cat companions–this is individual and between you and your cat.
o It can be as simple as looking at a picture and remembering times together.
o It can be a ritual such as walking into your cat’s favorite room and filling your heart with love at the thoughts and feelings that come to you.
o It can be treating yourself to something special because your cat would want you to treat yourself with kindness.

I like to focus on who I am because of my cats

I have had many cat companions bless my life since I was a child. Let’s see…there was Hershal, Bangalee, Gretel, Templeton, Brussels, Memily, Mitzie…Ok, I won’t keep the list going…I think you get my point–I LOVE CATS! Oh yes, then there was Yochabel. She is the heroine of the stories I will be sharing.

On May 24th, 2019 Yochabel passed away at 20 years of age. Our life together was enriching in ways I am still integrating into my human experience. I miss her and it has been a difficult time adjusting to my loss. To help me cope, I focus on what I know for sure–otherwise my thoughts can take me on trips that only make me feel worse. What I know for sure is that I am a more complete person because her presence graced my life. What I also know for sure is that despite my own struggles with chronic illness, autoimmune disease, mental health symptoms, and the challenges of healing from childhood trauma, because of Yochabel, I am more resilient, healthier, and happier. I am more aware of how I deserve to be cared for and treated. Yochabel was part of my own healing and treatment, and my physical and emotional health improved daily because of our relationship. When I repeat my “Yochabel Gratitude list,” I feel peaceful and realize that her gifts are a part of me and my life every day for eternity.


Yochabel’s integrative healing protocols enhanced the quality of her life and death

Yochabel had complex emotional and physical health challenges which preceded her diagnosis of bladder cancer. She and I bonded as a team and embarked on a journey of healing that very closely resembled my own healing journey with autoimmune disease. Together, we cultivated an integrative team of healers and veterinarians who created wrap-around support for her. Yochabel’s quality of life improved more as she aged because of the love and treatment approaches we embraced. Her healing protocols and treatments were not only integrative, but deeply guided by my own observations of Yochabel, as I learned to listen and trust the wisdom she offered about her own needs. I learned ways to give her ownership of the process. This was difficult much of the time for me–I like to control outcomes!

Ultimately, it was the enduring struggle with bladder cancer that caused her physical body to fail. Yochabel’s spirit, engagement with me, and desire to be my eternal lifelong companion and friend never faltered. This made the tough end of life decisions I faced that much more difficult. I wanted clear answers and they didn’t seem evident. Ultimately, it was my responsibility to honor all of her gifts and blessings in my life and help her leave her body so that she would no longer suffer. It was one of the hardest challenges of my life, thus far, and I, like many of you, have overcome obstacles that at the time seemed unbearable. This was truly a monumental struggle for me. Fortunately, there were lessons Yochabel taught me and shared with me along the way that made it easier and gave me peace and confidence that both of us were going to be all right. I only needed to trust myself to recognize these messages and believe in the bond we shared.

Sharing Yochabel’s wisdom– giving her a VOICE– is my tribute to her memory

Over the next few months, I will be sharing the story of Yochabel in a series of blogs posts. I will be discussing the many lessons I learned about caring for Yochabel during her illness. I will share my quest to stop the cancer from growing/spreading, barriers present with senior cats, variations in diet including supplements and herbs, and how to focus on the individual cat’s needs. Her story is special, not only because she was my cat companion, but because Yochabel left me with ways to cope with my own illness and a greater sense of acceptance and gratitude.

The information I will be sharing has the potential to offer support to other cats and their humans who care for them while trying to understand and meet their individual needs. Every cat, like every human, is different. They have their own unique needs and personalities. The more information we have, the more we can make choices that coincide with what we know about our cats. In my opinion, there is no greater way to honor our cats and those of us who love them, than educating and sharing with each other ways we can help them live quality lives, cope with chronic illness, and transition with dignity.

Part Two:
Yochabel's Wisdom: Securing the Bond

Part Three:
Yochabel's Wisdom: The Food Connection

Part Four:
Yochabel's Wisdom: Coping with Cancer

Part Five:
Yochabel's Wisdom: Hospice at Home

Part Six:
Yochabel's Wisdom: Emotional Turmoil

Part Seven:
Yochabel's Wisdom: The Last Day

Part Eight: 
Yochabel's Wisdom: Living With Loss

All photos by Scott Hersch, used with permission